Written by: Janet Lomax, 2018-19 RIT Minett Professor
What are you afraid of?
I’m not talking about things like spiders or snakes, a fear of heights, even squirrels (I know someone who is and who shall remain nameless).
No, I’m talking about those situations or opportunities that pop up in our lives that require us to make decisions that are out of our comfort zone.
I remember the fear I felt on my first job as a news reporter. I was 21 years old, fresh out of college, working at a TV station in Louisville, Kentucky. Most of my colleagues were “seasoned” journalists with years of experience.
I was the rookie.
One day the assignment manager suddenly sent this “rookie” to a major breaking news story at one of the city’s largest, most important companies. This was going to be the lead story that night. But I was still “learning the ropes.” At that moment, I felt fear.
Scared that I would ask a dumb question.
Scared that other reporters at the news conference would know I asked a dumb question.
Scared that once I got back to the newsroom, I wouldn’t be able to explain the story and write it up.
While I tried to appear “cool, calm and collected” all of those thoughts were racing through my mind as my photographer and I raced out the door.
Simply put: this was something new for me, a change in my routine and I was afraid of that change.
Looking back, I am so glad I was sent to that news conference. It forced me to face my fear. Turns out those other reporters weren’t even thinking about me. We asked all sorts of questions. They had the same deadlines I had, the same story to write. And I survived.
The idea of doing something new, whether it’s our own decision or a decision forced on us can rattle even the most self-assured. Maybe it’s taking on a new expanded role at work or having to step out on faith with no job in front of us at all.
Maybe it’s ending one phase of life and heading into another (Shout out to all of you RIT grads this year!).
Whatever the circumstances there can be fear of change. And it doesn’t matter who you are.
I read a great book a few years back called “Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes.
She‘s the Hollywood powerhouse behind those hit TV shows like “Scandal,” “Grey‘s Anatomy” and “How to Get Away with Murder.”
This self-described introvert dreaded the red carpet lifestyle, making public appearances and doing speaking engagements. She liked the little cocoon style life she’d built for herself. Then something happened. (no spoilers here, you’ll have to read the book) and she decided to say “yes” to those things that took her out of her comfort zone. She says facing her fears changed her life.
Kristi Mitchell can relate. The Saunders College of Business MBA grad (2014) loved her job in program management and marketing at RIT. After 8 years she decided to leave to join a financial services firm and do freelance work on the side with her company Phase2MARKETING. Mitchell admits she had some fear of the unknown.
“I had become so comfortable at RIT—the environment, the people, the job—it was all so familiar and steady. Ultimately though, I knew in my heart that in order to continue learning and growing in my career, I would have to leave that comfort.”
And she did it again, recently leaving that financial services firm (and a steady paycheck) to run her own company full time.
“Making the move to do my own thing was so uncertain but, in my heart, I felt that it’s what I needed to do in order to be happy.”
Following your heart is what led RIT grad student Stephanie Ballard to a night class on the RIT campus. During the day she works at the marketing firm Butler/Till Media Services and is a freelance writer for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle USA Today Network.
She’s wanted to be a journalist ever since she was a child. But her journey has had twists and turns and some hardships along the way: leaving a Florida college during her senior year, returning to Rochester and working as an instructor in cosmetology, then back to finish her degree at The College at Brockport where she was often the oldest student in the class. Now she’s wrapping up her first RIT graduate course: for her masters in Communication and Media Technology.
Ballard says it’s her passion that has helped her overcome her fears with each change she’s had to navigate. She has advice for others. “Face your fears, focus and never let things get in the way.”
Face your fears.
I was about to hop on stage to emcee a major event and someone asked me if I was afraid or nervous. I’ve emceed events and anchored live newscasts for many years, but no matter how well prepared I am, I know anything can happen and it usually does.
“Having butterflies is a good thing,” I said. And it is. It keeps us on our toes, alert and ready to face whatever changes come our way.
Don’t let the fear of change or the unknown immobilize your thoughts or actions.
As marketing expert Mitchell puts it, “if you make a change and it doesn’t work out, look at all of the lessons you’ve learned through that process and then you make your next move.”